The Los Angeles Lakers officially introduced Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams and Brandon Bass as new additions to the roster, and the biggest takeaway was how focused their new defensive anchor is. Hibbert is ready to put the past behind him after a overdue depature from the Indiana Pacers, and knows what the kind of role that will bring him back to prominence with a new opportunity in front of him.
"My job is to make sure I clog up the paint, help side defense, and whatever else I get on the offensive end is candy," Hibbert said when talking about what he expects to bring to the Lakers. "My main presence is going to be on defense to make sure these guys know I have their backs out there."
Roy doesn't anticipate soaking post touches, but he plans on making his impact in the same key role he filled for the Pacers' defensive schemes. Type in "Roy Hibbert verticality" in a Google search and you'll get an endless stream of analysis centered on how he protects the paint by keeping his arms straight up. Here's a great one if you're interested. Where he can make the biggest impact for the Lakers is in the restricted area. Having one of the NBA's best defensive big men covering a team filled with young talent is going to be helpful, which is one of the reasons it was a smart acquisition that fit perfectly for the Lakers.
Hibbert even cited the Lakers' being 28th in defensive efficiency (they were 29th, but impressive off the top of his head during a press conference) as one of the things he's in Los Angeles to help turn around. His focus is solely on basketball and getting back to being an elite defensive center, and he knows points in the paint are what can make or break a team.
"Defense is something you can control. I pride myself on being one of the best rim protectors," Roy said. Should he find a way to steer the Lakers' defense toward a respectable mark, he'll receive the lion's share of the credit. There's arguably no greater opportunity for Hibbert to prove he can change the game with his defense than under the Staples Center roof on a nightly basis, raising a team that ranked near the bottom in any defensive measure.
He also understands and appreciates what that ceiling over his head represents, too. Hibbert said he grew up idolizing Shaq and has worked with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Roy waived the trade kicker attached to his contract to make the deal work out, which was worth approximately $2.5 million, and said he didn't think twice about it.
"Who wouldn't want to be in L.A.? That was a no brainer."
The Lakers trio of new players were all focused on the future. Each spoke of being a positive veteran presence for the young core, while still being excited to bring their own talents to the floor. Hibbert was the first domino to fall for the Lakers, but both Williams and Bass stressed the Lakers reached out to express interest early and often in the free agency process. Roy moved out to Los Angeles over the summer, coincidentally, but noted he might have to move somewhere closer to the team's practice facility in El Segundo because of the traffic to a chorus of laughs.
The naturally charismatic big man pumped the brakes at the mention of seeking more entertainment work now that he's in Los Angeles, though. "I'm focused right now on making sure I get back to playing at the ability I'm capable of. One of the first things my agent talked to me about was not getting caught up in the Hollywood stuff," he said when asked about any off-court endeavors. His message was clear throughout the conference; he wants to prove he's still the best defensive anchor in the NBA.
Hibbert understands his limitations and knows he isn't going to be featured on offense. He'll never be the two-way force of those same Lakers legends he spoke of, but he can change the game with his defense arguably as much as any center currently playing. "Sometimes you have to embrace change," Roy said while explaining why he's ready to move on from his time in Indiana. The Lakers are in the middle of big changes of their own, and a bounce back year from Hibbert could put him at the center of it all.
*Quotes transcribed via Lakers.com's stream of the introductory press conference